9 Quotations and direct speech

9.2 Layout of quoted text

9.2.1 Displayed and run-on quotations

Quotations can be run on in text or broken off from it. A prose quotation of fewer than, say, fifty words is normally run on (or embedded) and enclosed in quotation marks, while longer quotations are broken off without quotation marks. But there is no firm rule, and the treatment of particular quotations or groups of quotations will depend on editorial preference, context, and the overall look of the displayed text. A passage that contains multiple quotations, for example, may be easier to read if all are displayed, even if some or all of them contain fewer than fifty words. Or it may be thought helpful to display a single, short quotation that is central to the following argument.

Quotations that are broken off from text (called displayed or block quotations, or extracts) begin on a new line, and can appear in various formats: they may be set in smaller type (usually one size down from text size), or in text-size type with less leading (vertical space between the lines); set to the full measure, or to a narrower measure; set with all lines indented from the left, or block centred (indented left and right); or set justified or unjustified. A commonly encountered style is shown below; the text is indented one em left and right:

Most of those who came in now had joined the Army unwillingly, and there was no reason why they should find military service tolerable. The War had become undisguisedly mechanical and inhuman. What in earlier days had been drafts of volunteers were now droves of victims. I was just beginning to be aware of this.

Displayed quotations should not be set entirely in italic type even if they appeared thus in the original publication (although individual words may of course be italicized). If two or more quotations that are not continuous in the original are displayed to follow one another with none of the author’s own text intervening, the discontinuity is shown by extra leading.

More than one line of quoted verse is normally displayed, line by line. Some other material, for example lists, whether or not numbered, and quoted dialogue, is suitable for line-by-line display. For verse quotations see 9.4 below; for extracts from plays see 9.5.

Because displayed quotations are not enclosed by quotation marks, any quoted material within them is enclosed (in British style) by single quotation marks, not double. A quotation within a run-on quotation is placed within double quotation marks:

These visits in after life were frequently repeated, and whenever he found himself relapsing into a depressed state of health and spirits, ‘Well’, he would say, ‘I must come into hospital’, and would repair for another week to ‘Campbell’s ward’, a room so named by the poet in the doctor’s house.
Chancellor was ‘convinced that the entire Balfour Declaration policy had been “a colossal blunder”, unjust to the Arabs and impossible of fulfillment in its own terms’.

If a section consisting of two or more paragraphs from the same source is quoted, quotation marks are used at the beginning of each paragraph and the end of the last one, but not at the end of the first and intermediate paragraphs.

9.2.2 Introducing quotations and direct speech

When quoted speech is introduced, interrupted, or followed by an interpolation such as he said, the interpolation is usually separated from the speech by commas:

‘I wasn’t born yesterday,’ she said.
‘No,’ said Mr Stephens, ‘certainly not.’
A voice behind me says, ‘Someone stolen your teddy bear, Sebastian?’

A colon may also be used before the quoted speech. A colon is typically used to introduce more formal speech or speeches of more than one sentence, to give emphasis to the quoted matter, or to clarify the sentence structure after a clause in parentheses:

Rather than mince words she told them: ‘You have forced this move upon me.’
Philips said: ‘I’m embarrassed. Who wouldn’t be embarrassed?’
Peter Smith, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, said: ‘Countries which outperform the UK in education do not achieve success by working teachers to death.’

Very short speeches do not need any introductory punctuation:

He called ‘Good morning!’
and neither does a quotation that is fitted into the syntax of the surrounding sentence:
He is alleged to have replied that ‘our old college no longer exists’.

The words yes and no and question words such as where and why are enclosed in quotation marks where they represent direct speech, but not when they represent reported speech or tacit paraphrasing:

She asked, ‘Really? Where?’
He said ‘Yes!’, but she retorted ‘No!’
The governors said no to our proposal.
When I asked to marry her, she said yes.

9.2.3 Quotation marks

Modern British practice is normally to enclose quoted matter between single quotation marks, and to use double quotation marks for a quotation within a quotation:

‘Have you any idea’, he said, ‘what “red mercury” is?’

The order is often reversed in newspapers, and uniformly in US practice:

“Have you any idea,” he said, “what ‘red mercury’ is?”
If another quotation is nested within the second quotation, revert to the original mark, either single-double-single or double-single-double.

Quotation marks with other punctuation

When quoted speech is broken off and then resumed after words such as he said, a comma is used within the quotation marks to represent any punctuation that would naturally have been found in the original passage. Three quoted extracts—with and without internal punctuation—might be:

Go home to your father.
Go home, and never come back.
Yes, we will. It’s a good idea.

When presented as direct speech these would be punctuated as follows:

‘Go home’, he said, ‘to your father.’
‘Go home,’ he said, ‘and never come back.’
‘Yes,’ he said, ‘we will. It’s a good idea.’

The last example above may equally be quoted in the following ways:

He said, ‘Yes, we will. It’s a good idea.’
‘Yes, we will,’ he said. ‘It’s a good idea.’
‘Yes, we will. It’s a good idea,’ he said.

In US practice, commas and full points are set inside the closing quotation mark regardless of whether they are part of the quoted material (note in the US example the double quotation marks):

No one should ‘follow a multitude to do evil’, as the Scripture says.
US style: No one should “follow a multitude to do evil,” as the Scripture says.

This style is also followed in much modern British fiction and journalism. In the following extract from a British novel the comma after ‘suggest’ is enclosed within the quotation marks even though the original spoken sentence would have had no punctuation:

‘May I suggest,’ she said, ‘that you have a bath before supper?’

Traditional British style would have given:

‘May I suggest’, she said, ‘that you have a bath before supper?’

When a grammatically complete sentence is quoted, the full point is placed within the closing quotation mark. The original might read:

It cannot be done. We must give up the task.
It might then be quoted as
He concluded, ‘We must give up the task.’
‘It cannot be done,’ he concluded. ‘We must give up the task.’

When the quoted sentence ends with a question mark or exclamation mark, this should be placed within the closing quotation mark, with no other mark outside the quotation mark—only one mark of terminal punctuation is needed:

He sniffed the air and exclaimed, ‘I smell a horse!’

When the punctuation mark is not part of the quoted material, as in the case of single words and phrases, place it outside the closing quotation mark:

Why does he use the word ‘poison’?

When a quoted sentence is a short one with no introductory punctuation, the full point is generally placed outside the closing quotation mark:

Cogito, ergo sum means ‘I think, therefore I am’.
He believed in the proverb ‘Dead men tell no tales’.
He asserted that ‘Americans don’t understand history’, and that ‘intervention would be a disaster’.

9.2.4 Dialogue

Dialogue is usually set within quotation marks, with each new speaker’s words on a new line, indented at the beginning:

‘What’s going on?’ he asked.
‘I’m prematurely ageing,’ I muttered.

In some styles of writing—particularly fiction—opening quotation marks are replaced with em rules and closing quotation marks are omitted:

— We’d better get goin’, I suppose, said Bimbo.
— Fair enough, said Jimmy Sr.

In other styles, marks of quotation are dispensed with altogether, the change in syntax being presumed sufficient to indicate the shift between direct speech and interpolations:

Who’s that? asked Russell, affecting not to have heard.
Why, Henry, chirped Lytton.

Dialogue in fiction is often not introduced with ‘say’ or any other speech verb:

I decide it’s Spencer’s fault, and sit up grumpily.
‘Who let you in?’
Thought and imagined dialogue may be placed in quotation marks or not, so long as similar instances are treated consistently within a single work.

9.2.5 Sources

The source of a quotation, whether run on or displayed, is normally given in a note if the work uses that form of referencing, or it may be presented in an author-date reference. The source of a displayed prose quotation may be given in the text. It may, for example, follow the end of the quotation in parentheses after an em space, or be ranged right on the measure of the quotation, either on the line on which the quotation ends, if there is room, or on the following line:

Troops who have fought a few battles and won, and followed up their victories, improve on what they were before to an extent that can hardly be counted by percentage. The difference in result is often decisive victory instead of inglorious defeat (Personal Memoirs, 355).

He brought an almost scholarly detachment to public policy—a respect for the primacy of evidence over prejudice; and in retirement, this made him a valued and respected member of the scholarly community. Those of us privileged to know him will always remember him as an exemplar of standards and qualities in public life. The Times, 8 Nov. 1999


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